Canadian Heli-Ski Operator Interview, 15 Questions with TLH Heliskiing Canadian Heli-Ski Operator
One Group Canadian Heli-Ski Trips, Unlimited Vertical, and Easy Travel from Whistler
1. TLH Heliskiing is the only Canadian heli-ski operator offering just one group per helicopter in a standard, Classic package. How did you decide to offer what amounts to an inexpensive Private Canadian Heli-Ski package?
At TLH we separate ourselves from the pack by offering Canadian heliski and heliboard packages that are more boutique and exclusive. A single group per helicopter offers the guest an unrivaled experience in the mountains as there is no waiting for additional groups. This also allows us greater bad weather tolerance as we do not have to extract multiple groups from the field with one helicopter. After a big snowfall when the sky opens up to that endless bluebird day we are out into our big terrain skiing within 10 minutes. Packages that offer three groups per heli will have the third group waiting at least 30+ minutes to fly out after the first group, even when the first run is close to home. The first group out will also have that 30 minute wait to get onto their second run. The single group helicopter eliminates this wait time.
Single groups also give our Canadian heli-ski program more flexibility in marginal snow conditions. We can move our program in and out of different drainages quickly and efficiently as we don’t have to ferry 3 loads in and out of zones.
[I love that!]
TLH Canadian Heli-Ski High Alpine Terrain? Check
2. On top of just one group per machine, you offer unlimited vertical! Other Canadian heli-ski operators tell me that it reminds them of the rancher who won the lottery, who plans to ‘keep on ranchin til it’s gone.’
How can you make money offering one group and unlimited vertical?!?
Over the last 20 years of operating, TLH Canadian Heli-Ski has gained an intimate understanding of how much the average Canadian heli-skiing client is capable of skiing. With this in mind, we ran a pilot project to see if our vertical numbers reflected what guests would ski on an unlimited basis and budgeted accordingly. The pilot was a success, and we decided to carry it forward into our regular program. When guests can eliminate the need to balance their budget while they earn their turns, they can “just ski”. The experience is greatly enhanced because they will ski morning to night and never concern themselves with the add-ons to their bill. No one gets left in the lodge after reaching their guarantee to save money, and the skiing becomes an unlimited possibility. The skiers that have seen our 200,000 vertical weeks, with no additional charges, would ask “how we can afford not to?” as they re-book.
One Group per Canadian Heli-Ski Trip! Like a Limo vs. a Taxi
3. Critics of the unlimited vertical offerings point out that the guests and operators are not goal congruent (high tech marketing jargon, sorry I couldn’t resist).
What do you say to skeptics who contend you may quit early or otherwise slow the pace to save money?
Our answer to this is that the ‘proof is in the pudding’ so to speak.
Our average daily vertical for 2011 was 8700m or 27,710 ft per day.
Over 7 days that’s 200,970 ft. [WOW!]
Most Canadian heli-skiing packages that the competitors offer give you 100,000 vertical feet before you start paying for every additional 1000 ft. The last 4 weeks of 2011 saw us skiing over 200,000 ft. weekly, with one week at 250,000. As far as quitting early goes, our daily program runs from 0830 to 1630 in the field, and the only time we come home early is due to tired legs or bad weather.
TLH Tree Skiing? Check
4. What is the average vertical for a week at TLH Canadian Heli-Ski?
See above [That is one hellacious average!]
5. Flying a 212 must be much less expensive. Comparing to 407’s or A-Stars, what’s the difference in operating costs?
Each aircraft has different operating costs based on the type of helicopter and the required maintenance on them. Generally smaller helicopters cost less to operate than a Bell 212. [Sorry, I was thinking per person]
Keep it running, we’ll be right down!
6. The group is only as fast as the slowest skier. What happens if the one group has a “lagging gaper” who can’t hang?
At TLH Canadian Heli-Ski, all of our groups in the single group program run with 2 guides. When we have a dramatic split, one guide will take the faster skiers and lap the slower guys or pick a different line to cater to ability levels. [Good answer!]
7. TLH is probably the most convenient to Whistler-Blackcomb of any destination Canadian heli-ski operator. Describe the travel from Whistler.
The transfer to TLH is part of the adventure and experience, and a perfect start to your heliskiing holiday.
A 20 minute land transfer from Whsitler to Pemberton brings you to the airport, where you will board a DE Havilland Beaver ski plane. A 30 minute beautiful scenic flight over the mountains brings you to Tyax Wilderness Resort & Spa, where you will land on the frozen lake in front of the lodge. [Very cool!]
All of our packages include this air transfer. When traveling by land, a pretty drive along a classic mountain highway offers views of frozen rivers, deep valleys, and diverse peaks. The Duffy from Pemberton to Lillooet is well-known for its incredible ski touring access and terrain.
Our proximity to Whistler allows us to build custom combo tours for guests who would also like to visit the world-renowned resort while on vacation.
8. How about travel from, and return to Vancouver?
Guests coming from Vancouver will travel up the Sea to Sky corridor through Whistler to Pemberton then connect with our air transfer to Tyax. The Sea to Sky is a famous, scenic drive through some of the best recreational playgrounds in Canada, including North Vancouver, Squamish, and Whistler. With views over the Pacific Ocean, you move through some of the most ideal terrain for outdoor activity in all of British Columbia, while being captivated by the view of the white-capped Tantalus Mountain range towering in the background.
The Lodge and Guests Rooms were Completely Remodled Last Year
9. Your lodge has been upgraded recently. What’s new?
Tyax Wilderness Resort & Spa, the home of TLH Heliskiing, underwent a massive renovation last summer and fall. We opened the 2011 heliskiing season with a completely revamped property. The space has been elegantly updated to modern standards to meet the expectations of the contemporary traveler while the ambiance of the lodge has been maintained; the goal of our renovations was to upgrade and enhance the level of luxury while maintaining the rustic feel of the lodge, representing our wilderness setting.
All guest rooms were completely renovated while the main areas saw complete upgrades and re-decorating, including the bar and lounge, the dining room, outdoor patio, and the den. The furniture in this Canadian heli-ski lodge has been replaced on all levels; easy chairs and leather sofas in the bar, warm inviting sofas in the lobby and bedding of the highest quality in all guest rooms. The exterior of the lodge has seen all the balconies and decking replaced, giving the exterior of the lodge a modern and clean look. Our newly renovated kitchen is now producing a dining experience far beyond what was available historically. And very importantly for our heliskiing guests, we now offer a brand new spa with three treatment rooms, an infrared sauna, a wood sauna, a steam room, yoga studio and well-designed change rooms guaranteed to relax our guests. We will continue to improve our product and services as we move forward to winter 2012, including a new outdoor Jacuzzi in the fall renovations and an even greater emphasis of guest satisfaction and service.
10. What’s the best thing about working with Canadian heli-ski agents like HELISKI.com, HELIBOARD.com, WhistlerHeliski.com and HeliskiingReview.com? Bonus Question: What do you think about shameless plugs by interviewers?
They help connect us to clients on a broader spectrum; they are specializing in the product which in itself is very specialized. [Yeah, it’s a niche of a niche, eh?]
11. Some clients are concerned about heliskiing so close to Whistler, where some storms dump heavy snow aka Sierra Cement. How does your snowfall amount and quality compare with other heliskiing destinations?
Luckily TLH is on the East side of the Coast Mountains. The storms have to rise over the high peaks of the mountain range and then drop their snow on us. This means we avoid the warm temperatures on the West side of the Coast Mountains; combined with the influence of the cold interior plateaus to the east of us we receive deep, dry snowpacks, quite different than that of Whistler.
This Ain’t Whistler…
12. How many down days do you average in a season?
1/2 day per week.
So pack your sunscreen! (My daughters turned me on to Neutrogena to limit the damage!)
13. What percentage of your guests is heliboarders, and what do you do to accommodate knuckle draggers?
The heliboarding numbers vary from week to week but on average I would say 40% of our guests are on boards. When we have boarders in the group we simply alter our terrain choices to eliminate long traverses or flat sections. [SWEET!]
How do snowboarders introduce themselves?
14. Do you know how snowboarders introduce themselves?
“OH! Sorry, Dude!”
[I’m not hating, I do both]
15. Is there anything else you would like to add about TLH Heliskiing?
We offer a boutique product in an amazing lodge with a ski program that is suited to people that really want to ski. Canadian Heli-skiing needs a shot in the arm and we are attempting to do it. Products and programs have been stagnating, and I think you will find most heli operators following our lead (once again) over the next few years! My comments are based on 13 years of heliskiing as a mountain guide, working actively in the guiding and the management of the heliskiing industry. We will be launching a new website this winter to bring our online presence up to the quality of our operation.
Thanks, Cliff! Looking forward to seeing the new lodge upgrades and skiing some deep untracked!
CPO (Chief Powder Officer)
Expert Advice – Knowledge is Powder